Power line decision delayed until Thursday
By SETH AUGENSTEIN

saugenstein@njherald.com

NEWARK — The final decision on the Susquehanna-Roseland power line across the northwest corner of the state will be recircuited to Thursday, as the state digs itself out of the remnants of the nor’easter today.

The Board of Public Utilities decision on the 45-mile, $750 million project had been scheduled for today, culminating years of planning, months of testimony, and several scheduling delays. But the winter weather had other plans, with forecasts estimating as much as a foot of snow in some parts of the state.

The meeting has been rescheduled for tomorrow at 1 p.m., with the public portion of the meeting opening at 2 p.m.

The most recent BPU meeting on the Susquehanna-Roseland application was held last Thursday at the board’s Newark offices. Opponents of the line peppered the foremost power witness, Steven Herling of grid operator PJM Interconnection, with questions about the need for the line — especially in light of two line withdrawals in Virginia and Maryland due to decreased demand. However, Herling stood pat on his previous findings of necessity for the line, even though he had no new statistical evidence on which to base it.

“We will do the analysis — but we already know what the results are going to be,” Herling testified.

Julia LeMense, the executive director of the Eastern Environmental Law Clinic, said Herling’s assurances were presumptuous, considering the length of the process thus far.
“This is an awful lot of process for ‘Trust me,’” LeMense said.

After the meeting, however, the controversy and paperwork continued. Lawyers for the interveners, including environmental groups and seven municipalities, attempted to reach back into the record to see what PSE&G attorneys had done with initial drafts of letters from Herling to the BPU reinforcing the need for the line.

PSE&G and PJM say the 500-kilovolt project is required to prevent brownouts and other federally-enforced violations on the line, beginning as early as 2012. The 100-mile stretch of the line in Pennsylvania was approved last month by that state’s Public Utilities Commission.

The BPU finished compiling evidence in November, but reopened the record after two similar lines were withdrawn in Virginia and Maryland in the last several weeks.
However, Herling and PJM maintain that the line is based on a completely different set of needs.

The National Park Service has scheduled a set of three public hearings next week on the portion of the line which would cross the parkland around the Delaware River.

If approved, the upgrade would as much as double the height and power of the existing lines, built in the 1920s.